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Climate Change

Published on August 9th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


90 Degree River Shuts Tennessee Nuclear Plant for Second Time

August 9th, 2011 by  


As oblivious as the proverbial frogs in slowly boiling water, we are beginning to experience the seemingly benign first years of catastrophic climate change. With the temperature in the Tennessee River approaching that of a nice warm hot tub, for a second summer in a row, three Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power plants had to shut down this week.

As temperatures across the South have skyrocketed in record-breaking heatwaves, the water in the Tennessee River, where the plants discharge their cooling water, is already a staggering 90 degrees.

Because hot rivers are not good for fish, by law nuclear plants must not heat rivers above 86.9 degrees with their discharged water.

But that now quaint-seeming environmental protection was passed decades ago, well before global warming began to impact air and water temperatures. Summers like these make environmenal niceties like not overheating rivers with nuclear cooling water a bit irrelevant, because the river in question is already as hot as a hot tub.

“When the river’s ambient temperature reaches 90 degrees, we can’t add any heat to it,” TVA’s nuclear spokesman Ray Golden told the Times Free Press.

The shutdown marks the second summer in a row that TVA has had to shut down nuclear power as local rivers have reached record temperatures.
Last year’s shutdown cost the company $50 million in replacement power, a cost it passed along to its customers. To forestall the same problem reoccurring in future years, TVA invested $80 million in a seventh cooling tower at Browns Ferry, which began construction last October.

The additional tower would have been ready to prevent another summer heat shutdown by now, but construction has also been impacted by this year’s extreme weather.

“It was delayed because of the impact of the tornadoes, and some spring storms and some heavy rains,” said Golden. “It’s probably about 98 percent complete, and we hope it will be in service in the next one to two months.”

Together with last years losses, that’s another $140 million added to our cost of living in a warming world. According to Climate Science Watch, even by mid-June, the US had already suffered a total of $32 billion in economic damages due to global warming.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • U.S. reactor sites carrying up to four times their design capacities of spent nuclear fuels and spewing wasted heat into the environment while Chinese re-engineered Thorium LFTR reactors ( http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4971 ) promise recoverable heat at high enough temperature to drive water desalination, small industry, and consume as fuel, the “spent fuel” from American designed plants and render it safe for humanity after only three hundred years of sequestering ! Obama still has no idea, has his head right up the asses of the powers that be ? Can a “spent fuel” disaster occur in America? one school of thought says we are too competent to let it happen, the other school of though says nothing, they just point to 9/11 in their silence, and kneel in prayer.

    • Anonymous

      You don’t have to sequester the spent fuel from wind farms or solar arrays.
      Nuclear is simply too expensive to be considered.

      China is building nuclear only because they are sitting on piles of cash and don’t have to pay for financing new plants like we have to do in the west.

      Additionally, nuclear takes too long to build. We need clean power on line right now, not decades from now.

      Large solar arrays are installed in only months and don’t require lots of high skilled labor. Wind farms are completed in less than two years, sometimes less than one year. Construction on the new Finnish reactor was begun in 2003 and they are hoping to start fueling in 2013.

      We do not have the capability of building more than two or three reactors at a time in the US. We don’t have the trained engineers and construction people needed. The best we could hope for is to replace the reactors which will be closed as they wear out.

      And pay attention to China. They’ve been increasing their goals for wind and solar over the last few years. At the same time they seem to be going a bit soft on new nuclear. China has a very practical government, they
      can do math. China knows quite well how rapidly the cost of solar and wind
      are falling.

  • Howard Wilshire

    This problem is likely to catch up with concentrated solar in the California desert too. Because of water issues, dry cooling is being mandated. Trouble is, the ambient air temperature has to be cooler than the fluids being cooled. Doesn’t work if its too hot.

  • Anonymous

    “… from the TVA’s media dept:

    … just wanted to remind you that none of the three units at Browns Ferry were ever shut down. Power was reduced to 50 percent for a few days due to water temperatures from the hot weather. All three units had returned to operating at 100 percent power by Monday night as lower river temperatures and increased river flow from sustained rainfall arrived in the area. TVA will continue to monitor river temperatures to ensure Browns Ferry stays within the river temperature limit set by a water discharge permit issued by the State of Alabama.”

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    the cause is baloney. look into HAARP. see dutchsinse channel on youtube. dr. nick begich. global warming swindle movie. it’s baloney.

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